Nikka Coffey Grain

$$$ — 45% ABV — No Age Stated

So this is a coffee whisky? Can they make whisky out of coffee? Or, I've heard of chocolate barley; is this a whisky made from some kind of grain that's supposed to taste like coffee beans? Or is it a whisky-based coffee liqueur? Help me out here.

History buffs will recognize Coffey as Aeneas Coffey, Irish inventor of one of the first column stills. These are ultra-efficient stills that create a very light-bodied spirit perfect for light rum, for gin-making, or for rounding out a blended whisky. After being aged, they're rarely sold by themselves, which makes this product a bit of a rarity. Common thought is nobody wants such a light-bodied whisky. Not so in Japan and, it turns out, not so in the States, either!

Made from corn at Nikka's Tochigi distillery, this is (essentially) Japanese bourbon. Only, it's not: Bourbon, by law, can't be aggressively distilled — but a column still, by design, is far more aggressive than the pot stills that dot Kentucky. This makes Nikka Coffey light, sweet, somewhat grassy, and very reminiscent of stone fruits: cherry and apricot, for sure. Some people also pick up on a bit of pleasant nuttiness.

While many folks will enjoy Nikka's Coffey Grain, I can't say I'd recommend buying a whole bottle. This is a blending whisky, and so is designed to be cost-effective: corn is cheap, column stills are fast. The only real expense is waiting for it to age. So why the high price tag? If you want a smoother and lighter whisky, just add some ice. However, if you want to understand Nikka's blending process, this is the whisky that forms the stage for all of their blends, and so it's a must-try.

Tochigi is located in Sakura, Tochigi in Central Japan. Established in 1962 by Takeshi Taketsuru for Nikka, it is now owned by Asahi Group.

Flavor Notes

caramel / cherry / oak / grass / apricot / walnut

caramel / cherry / oak / grass / apricot / walnut